The Dallas Police Chief warned Tuesday that an ongoing ransomware attack on city government continues to hamper police technology and summer crime-fighting plans.
It came as Dallas leaders gathered in the new Vickery Park Branch Library to push youth programs intended to help keep kids out of trouble.
Mayor Eric Johnson said Dallas is the only big U.S. city to post violent crime reductions each of the past two years, including a reduction last summer during months when crime typically rises.
“No other major city in this country has seen results like this,” Johnson said. “Even though we had tremendous success last summer, our goal is to outdo ourselves this summer.”
Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia mentioned police youth programs that will be available this summer. But he also sounded cautious about the police’s ability to perform as an ongoing ransomware attack on the city government that was first disclosed on May 3 continues to challenge crime-fighting work.
“Yes, moving forward it’s extremely impacting our ability for the crime plan, no question about it,” Garcia said.
Evidence of the ongoing ransomware attack consequences was visible at the library where rows of computers were not available for visitors.
Returned books were stacked up to be checked back in when computers are available again. Garcia said police crime reports are likewise stacked up, waiting to be entered.
“I don’t have the data on a daily basis. So, yes, to be honest. It’s problematic. It’s really influencing our ability to plan for what we’re trying to do,” Garcia said.
Mar Butler with the organization Tree Leadership, is a former gang member who learned about summer trouble on the streets. Now a violence prevention worker, Butler is also promoting the mayor’s summer safety plan.
“I spent 10 years in prison for a violent crime myself. So, I know from experience, but also as a community leader, what it’s like to be involved, what it’s like to create programs, what it’s like to be supportive,” Butler said.
Between Dallas Libraries, pools, recreation centers and also the Dallas Independent School District, there are hundreds of summer programs for kids. Some school district programs offer full-day schedules with transportation and food included.
“As an educator and a parent, I always knew that the easiest way for kids to find trouble is when they didn’t have something fun and engaging to do in the summer,” Dallas ISD Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde said.
Johnson said a top challenge for officials is to be sure families are aware of all the constructive options for kids.
“They are not in the streets to be harmed, they can’t be the innocent bystander of some crime, because they’re with us. And for these three months of the summer, that’s where I want our kids to be,” Johnson said.
Garcia said officers will keep going with their work answering calls and running programs for youth, despite complications from hackers with data and computers.
“I just want you to know we are here for you. We can’t wait to see you this summer to have a good time together. Together we are stronger. You are our future. We’ve got your back,” Garcia said.
Dallas city leaders say the complexity of the ransomware attack two weeks ago has prolonged the process of completely restoring services.
Garcia said most of the computer-assisted system for dispatching calls is operating but many other computer equipment is not.
“It’s extremely impacting our ability to for the crime plan, there’s no question about it,” Garcia said. “Certainly, our grids are based on data. Not having that data is problematic.”
From public safety to job searching, the impact of this malware attack is felt. Ron Campbell and his daughter, Autumn, spend a lot of time at the library in downtown Dallas.
“Over the past year I’ve depended on this library weekly, and I’d say I visit three to four times a week,” said Campbell.
It’s a play mixed with learning for Autumn, and a necessity for Campbell, who said they don’t have a computer or internet at home. For now, they don’t have it at the library, either.
“I personally stop by every other day or every couple of days to see if things have gotten better,” he said.
The City of Dallas assures its residents, restoration steadily continues and services are brought back online daily.
Here is a link to all the city programs.
Here are links to Dallas Independent School District summer programs.